Reuben & The Dark
When Reuben and the Dark’s Reuben Bullock sits down to write a song he always finds himself recycling themes and recurring characters from his muse, nature.
“A lot of the things I sing about are just characters in this novel I’m making with every album I guess,” he says. “Every song is a new chapter. So I think of the themes like dreams, rivers, storms, as recurring characters.”
For his upcoming album un | love—out on October 25—he also found himself having a lyrical conversations with his subconscious. These little conversations resulted in a sometimes foreboding and atmospheric piece of down-to-earth indie rock.
Almost every song has some reference to being outdoors, something Bullock calls his spiritual practice. Sometimes these nature references become metaphors for an experience in his life.
“There’s always a lot of spiritual or religious references when people describe my music and I think the basis of what draws me to those things is something like being in front of the mountains or sitting by a river or watching the ocean. As far as God goes, that’s my experience with it—just being in awe of something,” he says.
The title un | love came before any of the songs were written as Bullock made a list of a hundred or so words and put the prefix “un” before them.
“I became really curious how it changed my understanding of the words,” he says. “So of course I gravitated to the ones that made the least amount of sense and when I came to “love,” I couldn’t explain it and that’s kind of how this record feels to. There’s so much love on this record, but it’s not the kind that I understand.”
All of the songs on un | love are also written in lowercase. Bullock says this was also deliberate as he wanted the album to feel as natural as possible.
“That’s kind of how I always write anyways. I don’t write with capitals or sentence structure really and I wanted the song titles to look like they’re from the inside of my journal. I even write emails in the same structure as if they are verses or choruses,” he says.
On the musical side, all of the instrumental portions come from the first few takes with the band. Fittingly, Bullock calls un | love “a record of firsts.”
“All of the decisions that were made on the album were from listening to different takes and asking ourselves ‘does this give you shivers or tingles?’ If it doesn’t, just cut it.”
The single song “faultline” was actually written during Reuben and the Dark’s last album Arms of a Dream but didn’t make it on the album. Still, it’s always been a very powerful song for Bullock.
“It always held such weight for me,” he says. “It’s a reflective song for sure dealing with self destruction and making plans and having them fall apart.”
At least, that’s what Bullock says the song is about for now. He’s always been the kind of songwriter that doesn’t reflect too hard on the meanings of his songs. Sometimes he learns what they’re actually about years after they’re written.
“I don’t really worry about what I’m saying. I don’t know where any of this comes from. I listen to the songs just like everyone else,” he says. “I used to feel vulnerable and thought that I had to have this strong artistic statement behind every song and I felt like an imposter if I didn’t know what my song was about. Now, I don’t really care. Now it’s like knowing what your child is like after they’re born. It takes a couple years to gain a personality.”